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CUBANO INTERVIEW (MARCH 2000)!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:17 pm Post subject: CUBANO INTERVIEW (MARCH 2000)! Reply with quote

*INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY PATRICK DESVARIEUX* (MARCH 2000)

Q: How does it feel to be recognized as one of the most influential artists in Haitian music in the last century in terms of impact and popularity?

A: I’ve been singing "Compas Direct" for approximately thirty years. I started with "Les Shleu-Shleu" de Dada Djakaman since 1970, then we converted to Skah-Shah in 1974 and I’m very pleased to say that the public has always been very receptive towards us. I’m very happy that the public appreciates me.

Q: Why do you think you’ve been able to last for so long in the business?

A: It’s because I have a lot of heart and perseverance in everything that I do. I always try to do the best at what I do because the result will end up being positive. I also have a lot of love, respect, confidence and discipline for the business. Of course the public has a lot to do with it because without the public, a musician is not worth anything.

Q: Who was your music idol when you were growing up and why?

A: Musically, I had a lot of idols. Being from Port de Paix (a city in Haiti), I used to listen to a lot of Cuban music because we were close geographically to that country, and the radio stations over there used to play it. I loved a lot of cuban singers and French singers. As far as Haitian singers, I grew up admiring Guy Durosiers.

Q: Which musician of your generation do you admire the most and why?

A: There are so many people that I admire. I like Dadou Pasquet, Gaguy Depestre, Boulot Valcourt, Dersnt Emile, Robert Martino. There are so many that I could name that I would be naming names forever.

Q: Is there anyone that you haven’t worked with that you would love to collaborate with musically?

A: I would love to work with Dadou Pasquet and Robert Martino among others. That would be great.

Q: How did you get the name "Godfather of Compas"?

A: The name was given to me by Mario DeVolcy and Theo of the show "Haiti Creole" in New York. One day at some sort of ceremony/bal, they were giving out nicknames to certain Haitian artists. They decided that Cubano was the "Godfather of Compas". The people agreed and the name just stuck ever since.

Q: How did Shleu-Shleu become Skah-Shah and how were you received musically when you first came here in the States?

A: I was not part of Shleu-Shleu originally. Some major members of the band decided to stay in New York after a tour and when the other members returned to Haiti, I joined the band as one of the vocal replacements. When we decided to move to New York, we didn’t want to use the name Shleu-Shleu because the members that had stayed behind in New York were playing under that name. We decided to use the name Skah-Shah. When we first came here, we were the talk of the town. We had the song "Ayiti" that was working really well and we were a major force on the New York music scene and I’m sure that caused other bands in town to panic.

Q: Was there ever a rivalry between Tabou and Skah-Shah?

A: There was a fierce musical rivalry with Tabou at the time, but it didn’t go any further than that. They came up with their song "Nap passe a chiffron pou’n efface numero" in response to us calling ourselves #1.

Q: What was the reason behind the Skah-Shah split when all the other major members besides yourself left?

A: The other members of the band wanted to change the name of the band to Bazouka to sort of reflect some sort of a change in terms of style and sounds of the time. I did not agree with the name change, so they did their stuff and I retained the name Skah-Shah and got out of the slump that we were in starting with the "Hommages a Nemours" CD.

Q: Do you ever see yourself reuniting with Loubert, Zouzoul, Ti Frè and Kôkô?

A: In life you never know. Never say never. A lot of people would like to see that, even if it is for one special performance. If we were to ever get back together however, certain things in terms of the administration in the band would have to be different.

Q: Is there a problem between you and Arsene Appollon?

A: We are two different people with different goals, vision and personalities.

Q: Do you recall any fond memories with the guys? What were the best of times and what were the worst of times?

A: The good ones were the times spent in the studio putting the songs together. The times spent on stage playing for the public. The worst time was when each one of them started working on their individual projects on the down low. The first one who did that was Loubert with "Doudou", then came Cameau Anderson’s "Kalalou", afterwards Mario Mayala did "GM Connection" with Gerard Daniel and then Ti Frere did "Ayida".

When they were doing their stuff, they never even told me about it. When I wanted to go rehearse, the guys were rehearsing somewhere else individually on their own stuff. It was really sad because I thought they were wasting the Skah-Shah sound because it was all over the place. Each one of them would offer their own products to different producers as if it were a Skah-Shah album.

Q: Is that where everything started deteriorating?

A: Yes, because everyone on the street started asking me, "how come every single one of them can do an album and you can’t"? That’s when I decided to do my two "Essence" albums. I was the sixth one to do an album. Those two albums in turn affected the band. It affected the band because my albums were well presented and arranged.

When we traveled to Martinique by popular demand, we would play all the Skah-Shah songs to great response. Usually around one in the morning, the people would start asking for the songs off of my two solo albums and that created a problem because no one in the band knew how to play the songs. At that particular moment, I stood out from the pack, and that in turn created an uncomfortable atmosphere where each one of the members would go up to their hotel rooms after the show without saying a word to me. It was as if they were avoiding me.

Q: A lot of people say that you were the most popular member of the band with the public. Do you think that helped create some sort of friction within the band?

A: It’s really sad because it happens everywhere. It’s always a problem. If you look at Shoubou in Tabou, Douby in System, Alan in Zin and Kino in Phanttoms, those are the guys who get the public’s attention the most. The public’s attention is always focused on the singer and that in turn sometimes causes problems within a band.

Q: I’m going to name some names, tell me what you think of them? Johnny Frantz Toussaint(former Skah-Shah rhythm guitarist)?
A: A nice guy who happens to be a very big musician.

Q: Mario Mayala (former Skah-Shah lead guitarist who is deceased)?
A: An innocent who died too early. An excellent musician.

Q: Loubert Chancy?
A: A very good musician, very good saxophonist. (stops) That’s all that I can say.

Q: Zouzoul?
A: A "Jovial". A very sympathetic guy. A very good singer. A "chanteur de charme".

Q: Kôkô Lavelanet (Bass player)?
A: A "pilier" when it comes to the bass in "Compas direct". He’s the one that I considered as the spine of Skah-Shah.

Q: Name your favorite Skah-Shah album and why?
A: I have so many favorites. I like the "Synthese" album with the song "Pipirite". I like "Les Dix Commandements", that’s the one with the song "Ayiti" in there. I like the "Message" album with "Zanmi" and "Manman". I like the "Macho Man" album. I like "Forever", "This is it" and "Knockout".

Q: Name your favorite Cubano compositions? Why?
A: I have at least four favorites. I like "Caroline", "Merci Dieu", "Zanmi" and "Maria". "Caroline" was when I joined Shleu-Shleu and I wrote the text in French because I wanted it to be different. I never expected it to receive such a positive reaction from the public. "Zanmi" is about life in New York and friendship. "Merci Dieu" is a great booster spiritually for the band whenever Skah-Shah finds itself in times of difficulty. We had to put it on the new CD by popular demand. "Maria" is about our playboy and gigolo adventures. (laughs) We met a lady in Martinique who inspired our poetic spirit.

Q: Is Cubano still a playboy?
A: No. I’m no longer a playboy. (laughs) That’s life.

Q: What do you think is the best move you ever made in terms of your musical career?
A: It was the fact that I did not leave Skah-Shah. I stayed with the name when all the other guys thought that the ship was sinking; that was the best move I ever made.

Q: Do you have anything that you regret doing in terms of your music career that makes you say, "I wish I had done this differently?"

A:(Thinks for a few seconds) I don’t think so. Everything is smooth.

Q: What is your favorite band of the century?

A: I always tell everybody it’s Tabou Combo. I’ve known them for a long time, they are from my generation, so we go way back. Albert Chancy, Doff, Yapatcha, we are old buddies. I used to host their Saturday night programs at Paramount in Haiti. They’ve done a lot to keep the band successful. I’m one of their legions of fans.

Q: What do you think of the whole Tabou/Shoubou retirement rumors?

A: I don’t have all the information regarding that, but I’ve read about it in the newspapers. I think it would be really sad if that were to happen. He’s still in good health, he can still sing and work on a regular basis. I think it should be up to Shoubou if he wants to retire, not up to the guys from Tabou to decide when Shoubou should retire. I’m not sure if they have a problem in terms of their administration, but I don’t think it would be a good move if that were to happen.

Q: Would it be the end for Tabou if Shoubou were to leave the band?
A: If Shoubou left, it would affect the band. To a lot of people, the words Tabou Combo and Shoubou are virtually married to each other. It would be very difficult.

Q: How would you like to be remembered when you retire from the business?

A: I don’t have any intention to retire from the business. If for some reason I’m no longer there or God calls me, I want the people to remember me as a guy that brought them a lot of joy. I’m not just anybody, so I would hope that they respect me.

Q: Are you a legend?

A: (Pauses and thinks for five seconds) Yes, if you guys want to call me that. I realize that I’ve done a lot. It’s been thirty years since I’ve been singing and I have done some serious work. In terms of lyrics, songs and performance, I don’t think it would offend anyone if people were to say that Cubano is a legend.

END
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